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People's Daily Online>>Education

Pay attention to joys learning brings

By Berlin Fang (China Daily)

14:24, March 19, 2012

One of my colleagues once came back from his classroom asking: "Did you hear a loud explosion in the classroom?" Seeing the shock on my face, he chuckled: "It's the students' minds being blown away!"

Irish poet William Butler Yeats said "education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire" and for a teacher it ought to be deeply satisfying to set students' minds ablaze.

But becoming such an educational arsonist requires one to care about one's students, and to have a deep understanding of human psychology to help students learn with focus, purpose, confidence, and satisfaction.

I became interested in student motivation as I noticed an increasing number of Chinese children were dropping out of weekend Chinese schools. As untrained volunteers, many teachers are actually parents who teach the way they were taught while growing up in China, but the conditions for learning have changed for children. As a result, students can be frustrated or bored to tears with classes.

When kids say they would rather wash dishes than go to a Chinese school, something is very wrong in the ways they learn. How are they going to love their roots in Chinese and China if all their memory is associated with pain?

A visiting Chinese teacher Zhang Yajun said something that really struck a cord with me: "In Chinese, we have so many expressions about 'hard' learning", emphasizing that learning is necessarily difficult, without paying equal attention to the joys learning brings."

We say things like "hard work is the path in the mountain of books, arduous work is the boat in the sea of learning". But learning should be a joy not a chore. We need to find ways to turn it into a voyage of discovery as described in the poem Ithaca by Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy who said, "pray that the road is long, full of adventure, full of knowledge".

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